Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 6- Gearing up for the Big Show

The chips are falling into place. State representatives have been invited. Examples of restored historic bridges being restored are being collected, together with the costs. The motivation and the ideas towards saving the bridge is running sky-high. And since yesterday, the signatures on the petition to save the bridge and facebook likes are coming in like a wave of water rushing with great intensity down the canal.  🙂

This was the mentality of the committee as we met at the Rechenhaus Restaurant next to the Bockau Arch Bridge last night (on 17 April). Since our first meeting a month and a half ago (and with it, the start of this blog series), members have been calling around to get the people involved and join in the debate to save the bridge. And despite some missing ingredients, we already have a full set of people willing to sit down and discuss ways to save the bridge.  And with that, here is what we know:

On 24th April at 11:00am, we will meet at the Bockau Arch Bridge (in case of bad weather- at Schneeberger Strasse 1 in Albernau). There we will have the following people on hand to discuss about the future of the bridge:

State representatives of Saxony:

Stephan Hösl (Christian Democrats)

Luise Neuhaus-Wartenberg (Linke- Socialist Party)

Karin Wilke (Alternative for Germany- Far right party)

Ulrike Kahl (The Green Party)

 

Also included:

Members of the Ministries of Business and Transportation, plus Interior, The Mayor of Bockau- Siegrid Baumann.

The list is not completed as we’re looking at inviting someone from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage of Saxony, a representative from the Social Democratic Party and the Free Liberal Party, regional bike organizations, the mayors of Zschorlau, Aue and Schneeberg, and especially experts involved with restoring historic bridges in Saxony. And we have enough examples to go around.

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The Viaduct at Oberlochmühle. Source: http://grenzenloses-erzgebirge.de/oberlochmuehle

We have collected many examples of bridges that are being restored or are planned to be restored in Saxony, with some cost figures that dwarf the increasing cost for building the new bridge on a new alignment. Already mentioned in an article is the reconstruction of the Hirschgraben (or as some call it Hirschgrund) Bridge in Glauchau at a cost of 1.4 Million Euros, we also have a new project that will be launched this summer with the unique Ratzkotz Arch Bridge near Görlitz (at 2.4 million Euros) and the Eger Bridge near Reichenbach for 2.5 million Euros. Another bridge in the vicinity of Marienberg at Oberlochmühle is being considered for renovation to become a rails-to-trails crossing after sitting idle for over four decades. All these examples are stone arches about the same length as the Bockau Arch Bridge.  We’re hoping that at least one of the project representatives can join to talk about the funding for the project.  Also wishful thinking is a film documentary about the bridge similar to a couple examples, including the Frank Wood Bridge in Maine. But we’ll have to wait and see if this is even possible, given the time and cost for producing even a 3-5 minute segment.

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Bockau Arch Bridge as Cultural Heritage Site

What I did learn about the bridge is that despite the missing information about the bridge builder for the stone arch structure, the bridge is listed as a German Cultural Heritage site on the state level. That means  state funding is available to restore the bridge if they wish to do that. In order to remove the heritage status to allow for the removal of the structure, a form has to be filled out describing in full detail why the historic bridge should be torn down. Administrative costs in the hundreds and thousands are imposed and the process could take a couple years to complete. While claims that the deal to tear down the bridge once the new structure is open between the Community of Bockau and the construction firms responsible, is complete, it doesn’t mean that there is no last-minute deal to save it. No form to take the bridge off the heritage list has been submitted, and it sounds as if nothing will happen to the bridge as long as we have a plan to save the structure and find ways to finance it.  Surprising and shocking is that an environmental and cultural impact survey was not carried out to determine the after-effects of replacing the historic bridge. Already rock cliffs are being blasted to make way for the new road and bridge, which is changing the landscape bit by bit and explains the reason behind the closure of the bike trail within a 4-kilometer radius of the bridge.

The Inconvenient Truth

Still, the logic behind the closure of the stone arch bridge is still a mystery. As mentioned earlier, since the closure of the bridge, the restaurant has lost over 60% of its customers. We were the only customers at the restaurant this evening. Yet the owner has had some surprises. They included Syrian refugees visiting the bridge and the restaurant, a large group of bikers having to stop at the restaurant to get directions to get across the bridge, and several people circumventing the fences just to cross the bridge. It really shows how very inconvenient the bridge closure has been. I will be videotaping the long detour to show how much time is needed to make the 15 kilometer detour to be posted on the facebook page. The planning was just simply way too poor. Already the price for the new bridge has skyrocketed from 3 million to 12.5 million Euros. When the new bridge opens, it will be another example of money well-wasted, just like the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport project.

Summary

And so to sum up our meeting, the pieces of the puzzle are just about in place for the meeting on the 24th of April. What is needed are a few experts for bridge restoration, a couple representatives who can vouch for saving the bridge, and lastly some more history lessons on how the bridge is built. The third one I’m working on and should have it ready in time for the meeting. But above all, we need as many signatures and likes on our page to show our guests that we care about the bridge, even from abroad, and that when there is a will to save the bridge, there is a way to do it- private or public.

Historische Ansicht Rechenhausbrücke

And with that, we need your help:

We need 2000 Likes and 2000 Signatures between now and the 24th of April to be presented to the state representatives. Click here to sign the petition to save the bridge. Click here to like our page and get the latest on our project to save the bridge. Help us convert the bridge into an important connection for bikers and pedestrians. One can imagine the old bridge and the new one standing side-by-side. You can as well.

Some more articles from the Chronicles will be included including politics and saving a historic bridge as well as the German Cultural Heritage Laws, comparing it with the US. But your likes and signatures will make a big difference.

 

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Frank Wood Bridge Raising Funds for Independent Inspector

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Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge

BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.

Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here:  https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge

Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.

During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from  MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage.  A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:

 

 

Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.

The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.

The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.

 

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Bridge Beautification in Glauchau (Saxony), Germany

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Hirschgraben Viaduct at the Castle Complex to be Completely Rebuilt; Former Mulde Crossing to become Rest Area for Bikes

GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)-  While driving (or even Walking) through Glauchau in western Saxony in Germany, one cannot avoid several construction barriers and even downed trees in several places within the community of 24,000, located between Zwickau and Chemnitz. As part of the plan to beautify the city, several Buildings sitting empty or abandoned are scheduled to be repurposed or torn down.  And that applies to a couple of the city’s key crossings. A former site of a historic Bridge is about to become a rest area and picnic area for cyclists whereas a historic Bridge near the Castle complex is about to be demolished and rebuilt to mimic the original Bridge from the 1700s. Details about the two Projects can be found here:

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Hirschgrund Bridge to be completely rebuilt as part of the Castle beautification project

Connecting the Fordere and Hintere Glauchau Castles with the city park to the south, the 300+ year old Hirschgrund Viaduct is the oldest known bridge in Glauchau, let alone one of the longest and tallest of the city’s bridges. At approximately 75 meters long and 15 meters high, the bridge consists of five arches built mainly of brick and concrete, although it is unclear whether the concrete was added later or was part of the construction. The bridge has been neglected for over 40 decades and closed to all pedestrians for almost that long, thus causing it to decay rapidly, forming cracks in the concrete and exposing the red brick. Vines have been growing on the structure and some accounts in the social media have described the bridge as wobbling while walking over the deep ravine. All the vines, the wooden scaffolding to support one of the arches and other coverings are about to become a thing of the past, for the Glauchau City Council recently approved a 1.3 million Euro project to completely rebuild the viaduct. According to the Free Press, the entire structure is scheduled to be completely taken down, then using the materials from the old structure, will be completely rebuilt mimicking the 17th Century viaduct when it was opened to horse and buggy. The project is expected to last 1-2 years pending on any unforseen circumstances. The complete rebuild of the viaduct is part of the controversial project to beautify the Castle Complex- in particular the courtyard in front of the Fordere Castle on the east side. At the cost of 500,000, the courtyard is supposed to be converted to a multifunctional arena with shelter house, steel flower tubs, park benches, an aluminum pergola and electric outlet. The proposal has been met with hefty criticism because of the lack of taste and conformity with the castle’s surroundings. Even an article written by a local architect suggested alternatives to the proposal that is more appropriate and based on a total agreement by the parties involved (click here to read the article by Kathleen Scheurer).  Already, the trees at the courtyard have been removed giving the castle complex a bare-naked appearance:

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How the castle complex will look like, once the five-month project ends in October remains open.

 

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Meerane Bridge: new on the left and the old one on the right before its removal. Photo by Ulrich Schleife

Meerane (Upper Mulde) Bridge Abutment to become a Picnic/Rest Area

For over two decades since the construction of the current structure and the removal of the 1880s historic bridge, the remaining eastern abutment has sat in its place, covered with vegetation and garbage and looking like an eyesore. Come April, it will become an eyesore no more. At the cost of 10,000 Euros, the vegetation area will be removed and the eastern abutment will be repurposed as a picnic and rest area for pedestrians and cyclists. Included will be a bike stand, benches and garbage cans in and around the abutment near the pedestrian crossing at Meerane and Linden Streets. That portion of the project will take three weeks to complete, according to the Free Press. This is part of a bigger project which the shoreline of the Zwickau Mulde River will be cleaned up and converted into a park and trail setting, using land from abandoned buildings that either have been torn down or are scheduled to be removed in the near future. Already in the works is the plan to have a bike trail connecting the bridge with the Zimmerstrasse Covered Bridge, located near the Wehrdigt Elementary School. In the long term, the Mulde Bike Trail will go through Glauchau along the river instead of along the Diversion Canal, a plus for those wanting to see the city’s historic bridges along the river. One can also see the bridges leading to the Castle Complex from that proposed stretch of trail.  As for the Meerane Bridge, the east abutment is the remains of the 1880s Town Lattice truss bridge built by local bridge builder Heinrich Carl Hedrich, who was responsible for the construction of a diversion canal around Glauchau, Germany’s first water main systems as well as several dams, mills and bridges in Glauchau and along the Mulde. The bridge was replaced on alignment in the 1990s and subsequently removed once the new structure opened.

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Abutments as remains of the old bridge

With the ongoing changes that are happening in and around Glauchau also comes the updates in the Bridge Tour Guide of Glauchau. Several photos have been added on the castle bridges as well as the Wave, plus some updates based on the current developments which will be followed closely in the Chronicles. To see the updates, click here, which will take you to the guide again. There, you will find more pictures and information so that you can better get to know the bridges in and around the city.  Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge: Day 2- Facebook

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Looks can be deceiving in this picture above. Taken last week right before the Arctic/ Siberian cold spell that dropped temperatures to as far down as -40° C and buried cities, like Flensburg in one foot of snow, one can see the bridge that is still in tact, yet its northern approach to the arch spans is gone. Demolition has not taken place for it has been stayed pending on a hearing between the group saving the bridge and political representatives of the Ore Mountain district (Erzgebirge) and the German state of Saxony. Three days after posting the first entry, the German version of the online petition was accepted by authorities in Dresden (the state capital) and Aue (the district seat), and we received an invitation to a hearing on this unique structure. But for right now, the old approach is needed for the new approach to the span being built directly to the east of the new span. The foundations for the pylon are already supplanted in the Zwickau Mulde, and it will be a matter of time before work can commence on building this important piece that will eventually hold the structure. The new span is to be a two-span concrete beam bridge, whose aesthetic value is really compared to a typical American slab span, as seen in one example here.  In other words, engineers could have done a better job in designing a bridge that best fits the mountain landscape, which the builders of the Stone Arch Bridge achieved hands down- and within a course of a year on top of that. 🙂

Facebook:

But going to the current theme in the entry:  Social networking has played a key role in addressing the issues of concern while attracting scores of people to help in their causes. Since around 2011, many organizations involved in preserving historic bridges have used social networking- such as facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn to attract people from faraway places, many of them with the tools and technology needed to save the structures and repurpose them for recreational use. My first involvement came with the Riverside Bridge in Missouri, where Kris Dyer led in the efforts to attract hundreds of people who were willing to chip money, time and efforts into saving the two-span truss bridge that was a product of the Canton Bridge Company and built in 1909. Myself and a friend of mine from Pittsburgh helped organize the Historic Bridge Weekend Conference using that bridge and another one at Times Beach near St. Louis as centerpieces for bridge preservation that were needed during that time.  Riverside Bridge was restored and reopened two years later, while a campaign to repurpose the other bridge is well underway with plans to have the bridge open by 2025.

The social network idea led to my creation of one myself for a committee to save the Green Bridge in Des Moines. The three-span through truss bridge, built by George E. King in 1898, was restored in 2017 but it took three years plus over 1400 fans,  who contributed photos, stories and ideas on how to save the structure. The bridge in the end needed new decking and steel floor beams, new painting and lighting and repairs to the decking.

Save the Bockau Arch Bridge:

This led to the idea of building a social network site for the Bockau Arch Bridge (in German: Rechenhausbrücke Aue). The purpose of the website is to share some stories, photos and other facts about the bridge and its Headwaters Tender House and Dam (Rechenhaus), which is now a restaurant, plus provide some updates on the project to save and restore the stone arch bridge, even after the new bridge is open to traffic next year.  Basically, to find out how successful the facebook site is, the one question you should ask yourself is can you attract enough likes to make a statement? Even more likes than in a petition? Unlike going door-to-door collecting petitions from neighbors, friends, family members and teachers, a social network, sometimes combined with an online petition, will attract more people from all aspects of the world. And who knows? There may be enough people out there who just might be that savior with some particular power to save the bridge- a politician, preservationist, financial provider, etc.

And therefore, the committee needs your help. Go to the website by clicking on the link below:

https://www.facebook.com/rechenhausbruecke.aue/

Like the site and feel free to help out in saving this bridge. The goal of the page is to get 2000 likes before Easter, plus just as many more (at least) before the end of the year. The ultimate goal is to send a message to Aue, Dresden, Berlin and beyond that we care about this bridge and we want to keep the structure, no matter what costs will incur in doing that, and no matter what events we can put together to raise money to make it happen.  An English-speaking online petition is in the works and will be added very soon.

So can you join in the page and like us to follow? We hope so. 🙂

In the next entry, we’ll have a look at the history of the Rechenhaus located next to the bridge. A very unique one indeed. 🙂  Stay tuned!

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Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge- An American’s Perspective: Day One

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Nur Heimat gibts nichts- There is never just a homeland.

 

This is a comment that I remember during my first meeting with the committee to save the Bockau Arch Bridge. Located over the Zwickauer Mulde River six kilometers southwest of Aue in western Saxony, this 146-year old stone arch bridge is one of a few historic landmarks left in the town of Bockau, with a population of 2,100 inhabitants. Closed since the end of August 2017, I had the dubious priviledge of having to make a detour of enternity in order to arrive at our first meeting. This meant going up the hill along Bockau Creek (which the over 800-year old town was named after), then making a pair of sharp curves going right onto a narrow street which leads me out of town, but not onto the bridge that has been blocked off completely. I had to drive another 15 kilometers on a paved road full of sharp curves, potholes, cracks, ice, and wolves roaming about in the forest until I reached the Eibenstock Reservoir. There, I crossed the next bridge and backtracked on the main highway going on the opposite side of the river which led to the meeting place next to the closed bridge- The Rechenhaus Restaurant. There, I was greeted by the welcoming party, despite my 45-minute late arrival, with happiness and joy that an American was coming to help. 🙂

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The Rechenhaus Restaurant located on the north end of the bridge.

How did I end up here in the first place? And why do a documentary on an old stone arch bridge that no one really knows much about?

As the two pigs Piggeldy and Frederick would say “Nicht leichter als das.” (No easier than this):

I’ve been a bridgehunter since I was five years old, having photographed and written about tens of thousands of bridges in 14 countries (including the US) and 14 states in the US (including my home state of Minnesota). In Germany, I’ve covered all but three of the 16 Bundesländer. This includes Saxony, the region I’ve been touring since 2016. I’ve been running the Chronicles since 2010 and have worked with groups on how to not only restore historic bridges but also how to make them attractive for tourists. This includes my involvement with historic bridge conventions as coordinator and speaker and my use of social media to garnish the attention of interested readers and other history enthusiasts. I’m also a teacher of English, which I’ve been doing since 2001, and since August 2017, I’ve been based full-time at the Saxony Police Academy in Schneeberg, located only three kilometers from the Bockau Bridge. It was also the same time period as my time in Saxony that I’ve done tours in the region, be it in cities like Dresden, Rochlitz, Leipzig, Glauchau, Zwickau, Aue/Schlema and Chemnitz, just to name a few, or along rivers like the Mulde and Elbe. And it was these bridgehunting tours that got the attention of the regional newspapers, namely the Free Press in Chemnitz, whose news reporters at the regional offices led me to this group saving this particular bridge.

And as for the bridge itself, it has more history than many locals know about. It was built in 1872 and is made of natural stone from the Ore Mountains. It took approximately a full year with lots of manpower to construct a multi-span stone arch bridge that connected Bockau with Albernhau and Zschorlau on the opposite side. A local restaurant with the name Rechenhaus was the site of the dam and lock area and headwaters plant, which were built between 1556 and 1559. The flow of the water was ideal for transporting materials downstream, and workers constructed several canals in the mountain region less than 90 years later. Even the headwaters plant was once a mill before it eventually became the barracks for the 11th Panzer Division during World War II and a restaurant after that.

In an attempt to slow down the progress of advancing soldiers from the east, the 11th Panzer Division was ordered to detonate the bridge in April 1945. This is the same tank division of German army that had fought (and lost) at Stalingrad, Kursk and the Battle of the Bulge before retreating towards Germany. Yet a brave unknown soldier did the unthinkable and  relocated the bombs to a temporary bridge in Zwickau before blowing that bridge up. This allowed for the Soviets and Americans to easily cross the bridge with their tanks with ease while setting the people free in the process. The 11th Panzer surrendered in Passau on 2 May, 1945, six days before Germany capitulated.  The same bridge was used again 23 years later, as soliders from the Warsaw Pact armies, consisiting of mainly Russians and East Germans crossed this bridge enroute to Prague to quash the Spring Movement.

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Talking about history, politics and the future of the bridge.

Despite all the history that is involved with this bridge, the historical monument has become a stranger to people in the region, having somewhat lost its face in the eyes of the locals. The mayor of Bockau would like to see the bridge gone once its replacement opens. The same with the state of Saxony and the German government, both are championing a 6.4 million Euro project to replace the old bridge. And despite the petition going around for saving the bridge, a handful of politicians are interested in keeping the bridge for pedestrian use after the new structure is built- most of them with little affiliation with the region with the exception of the Green party.

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And this is where I come in.

Our first meeting at the Rechenhaus Restaurant, the historic building which once had the barracks but was originally the headwaters mill and dam complex. The restaurant has a very Erzgebirge taste to it, with a collection of incense men and wood-carved chandeliers. Opposite the entrance to the restaurant is a mahoghany-framed painting of the dam and mill as it was in the 16th century. Some in the committee would like to see it again as a way to slow the flow of the Zwickau Mulde. The river had flooded towns downstream on six different occasions since the bridge was built, with the worst of them having occurred in 1954, 2002 and 2013. Given its proximity to the bridge, many would like to see the restaurant as is. Yet its location during the construction period has become a painful inconvenience. Talking to the restaurant owner, he was deeply disturbed by the construction and stated that since the project started, he had lost up to 60% of his customers. Whether he can compensate once the new span opens remains unclear.

We were nine people minus the restaurant owner, each one with a new set of ideas on how to keep and possibly fix the bridge so that it can be used again. Yet as seen with the American historic bridges, money needs to be there in order for it to happen. Political connections needs to be there in order for it to happen. The same with the use of media and lastly support from the public. As with all historic bridges, the public is the first line of offence in pursuing the preservation of historic bridges. Whether it is with petitions, technical know-how or even planning events, they always have the ideas first before our elected officials. After that, we get the attention out there via social media. Through that and the events, the politicians come in with bills to approve measure to restore the bridge. Then the money comes in to pay for the costs.

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For our bridge in Bockau, we’re already at step one, which is public interest. A petition with 1700 signatures was sent to Dresden to the state parliament. Another one is in the works which includes an English version for people to sign and establishing a website. That will be my job for right now- an important one! Speaking from experience with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, gathering interest in social networking will make waves and influence the thinking of the higher-ups of politics and business. Once that is established and we have the English version to submit to Dresden, the next plan is to meet with officials in Dresden to discuss the situation and ways to make the historic pedestrian crossing a reality. A big plus is the fact that the bridge and the mill area are historic lanbdmarks which make it impossible to tear down unless ordered by the federal government. How that works will come in a later article. Then with the connections and planning will be the events. This is where the tough part comes in. How to make this bridge attractive to tourists of all age? We’ve looked at drawing contests, concerts and the like. But what else could be do there? And how can we raise money for the project? This is independent on any funding available for rehabilitating the bridge, which is scarce at the moment, but the search continues.

It’s a battle that one can lose but it’s better to die trying than to sit and do nothing. The mentality has increased in the US over the past decade, yet Germany does have a lot of pride in its history and culture, too much of it to just sit and do nothing.

And with that, I must set to work. I have my expertise to use and share, while others are garnering some more support from locals and interested people in the project. Therefore, what are we waiting for? Get to work!

More on my involvement in the preservation project to come. Stay tuned! 🙂

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The Preservation Committee including the restaurant owner.

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Gasconade River Bridge Preservation Project Loses Support Due To Corruption from Donor

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Portal View of the Gasconade Bridge. Photo taken by Rich Dinkela

Workin Bridges withdraws support due to questions about its transparency and methods of preservation; Friends of the Gasconade Bridge regrouping to find other ways of preserving the historic bridge.

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HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- Members of the Group Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians are regrouping after a major donor, Workin Bridges, has withdrawn support for preserving the historic bridge near Hazelgreen. According to a statement by the director Julie Bowers, the Grinell, Iowa-based organization plans to return the $6900 in donations to the members beginning this week after having been confronted by many members of the Route 66 Guardians about the organization’s credibility and transparency in terms of collecting donations and using the money for preserving the bridge.

In a statement provided by Ed Klein at Route 66 World, he stated that the lack of communication between Bowers and members affiliated with not only the efforts to preserve the historic bridge but other Route 66 organizations combined with a lack of vision was one of the key factors in leading to some discord during the project:

Actually, the Guardians were the ones who started it, and if I remember correctly they reached out to see who can help, and your group came in, on your white horse, to save the day. To be fair, it seemed like this is ‘what you do’ so at the time it seemed like a natural fit BUT as time went on and very little info was passed out and around, and the fact of any real transparency of where the money is going, we are here at this moment fighting about it.

So:

— If you feel the bridge will not be saved in the alloted time, why the continuous fundraising and donations?

— If the bridge does not get saved, what happens to the funds that were given to you to save the BRIDGE, and not for admin and travel costs?

— Is there more than one “bucket” for funds (donations for particular bridge projection versus admin and other expenses)?

— If not, why not?

— If so, why is the donations for repairing the bridge (and engineering costs) going elsewhere (like road trips)?

And for the record, I can swear on the lives of my children the vast majority of us would be RIGHT behind you and helping you, but you never once asked (other than donations) and the information we all received as a sparse, if at all.

This is not new as some have reported that there have been other historic bridge projects that were burned by the organization’s politicking, including one in Iowa where members of that group are seeking returned funding collected by Workin Bridges through legal action.

Bowers said according to MoDOT estimates, repairing the bridge would take $3.1 million, including $1.2 million in removing lead paint. This was disputed by Rich Dinkela, one of the members of the Guardians Group, claiming that the removal of lead paint from the bridge may not be a necessity in restoring the bridge.  Dinkela is one of the leaders of the group and has a collection of videos on youtube that is devoted to Route 66 (click here for details). A Revive 66 website had been planned where donations of $66 per person would go towards projects along the Mother Road, including the Gasconade Bridge. A total of $7000 had been collected before Bowers cut the cord on the project last week. That money collected was meant for marketing, yet as Dinkela mention in an interview, it was one of many grandiose ideas for the project, which included establishing an investment account, where the interest accrued from the thousands of dollars donated would be used for insurance and inspections. Another was converting the bridge into the longest bar on the route- a concept mentioned by John McNulty, manager of Grand Canyon Caverns in Arizona.

With many ideas out there that were met with scrutiny and opposition because of the practicality, combined with the lack of information regarding the actual sum for the preservation project and what is needed to restore the bridge, both sides agreed to part ways, with Bowers moving onto other bridge projects and Dinkela and other members returning to the drawing table to conceive a new plan as to how this 94-year old bridge can be saved.

But time is running out. The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to construct a replacement parallel to the historic bridge in 2019 and hopes to integrate it into some park or recreation area. However if no funds are collected to restore the bridge before the completion of the bridge and no owner is willing to step forward to own it, the Gasconade Bridge may find itself in a pile of scrap heap by 2021 at the latest.

To follow up on the events with the Gasconade Bridge, please click on the following webpages:

Route 66 News: http://www.route66news.com/2018/02/08/workin-bridges-withdraws-gasconade-river-bridge-preservation-effort/

Route 66 Gasconade Bridge Guardians: https://www.facebook.com/rt66gasconadebridgeguardians/?hc_ref=ARScgMAIJfHFAeNr3Wn7iR52zyeuArwpkFFcWrNYZDUQnrtG30uyju0RqQ04qixQ9SA

Bridgehunter.com: http://bridgehunter.com/mo/laclede/gasconade-66/

A summary of my interview with Rich Dinkela about this bridge can be found here. This includes the bridge’s history as well as its connection with the beloved highway many even outside the US love.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you updated on the latest with this historic bridge, whose future is still clouded but it is hoped the organization will come up with plans to save it as they see fit. 🙂

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What to Do With a Historic Bridge: The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge in Germany

Photos taken in September 2017

AUE/SCHNEEBERG (SAXONY)-

Our next stop on the bridgehunting tour, especially along the Zwickauer Mulde in western Saxony is the town of Bad Schlema. This town of 5,600 inhabitants is located deep in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) where the river meets the River Schlema. It was once a key junction of two rail lines: the still existing north-south railroad that connects the community with Aue and Johanngeorgenstadt to the south as well as to Zwickau-Werdau-Leipzig to the north. The other is a short line going west to Schneeberg that used to provide passenger and freight serviceS but has been extant for over 60 years. Both lines were vital for transporting iron ore from the mined regions to the processing plants in the larger cities in the mountains. Nowadays the current line provides access for people wishing to visit the radon health resort in Bad Schlema, which has existed for over a century as well as the Christmas markets in Aue, Schwarzenberg and Schneeberg.

And while the train station at Bad Schlema still provides passenger service on the north-south axis, the surroundings that made the station famous are all but a faded memory. This included the Leonhardt Paper Company, the Hoffmann Machine Factory and Tölle Machinery, the third of which manufactured iron products. By 2006, the last remaining factory, the paper manufacturer, became a memory thanks to the wrecking ball.  The only relict remaining that serves as a reminder of the good old days of mining and paper production are a pair of historic bridges spanning the Zwickauer Mulde: a truss bridge dating back to the Communist era and a stone arch bridge that had existed since the creation of the rail line, but is in disarray to a point where questions are being raised as to which bridge should be saved and which one should go.

 

Before going to my investigative reporting, look at the slide show below and ask yourselves this question: Which bridge would you want to see saved and which one would you like to see gone? And what are your reasons for your decision? And how old do you think these two structures are?

 

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After doing some thinking about it, let’s take a look at the history behind the two bridges, which is in connection with the railroad itself. Between 1856 and 1860, the railroad company decided to construct a line going into the Ore Mountain region in western Saxony, where it was rich in various metals and miners had been working the region for generations. The line started from Zwickau and by 1860, the line arrived in Aue before terminating at Johanngeorgenstadt, near the present-day Czech border by 1868. Between Aue and Schlema, the rail line made a hook going around the mountain, running parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde. Because of its narrowness, combined with dangers of rock slides and curves, a decision was made to straighten the line in 1895, which included building a tunnel between the stations of Aue and Schlema, the latter was named Niederschlema at that time. As seen in the map and illustration, the distance was trimmed by half, and a single-span duo-truss bridge eliminated a single-lane bridge, thus making it easier and quicker to ship people and goods between Aue and points to the north and west. At the same time, another bypass north of Niederschlema was built going north to Hartenstein, which ran parallel to the Zwickauer Mulde and the present-day road connecting both towns. The realignment project was completely finished by 1900, but it came at the cost of the original rail line and the Stone Arch Bridge itself.

The response, according to Dr. Oliver Titzmann was an overwhelming support by the paper company to take the redundant line and bridge and make it their property. In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Dr. Titzmann, the town historian and member of the Bad Schlema City Council, has done a lot of research on the railroad and the Stone Arch Bridge itself. That bridge was built in 1860 and featured two Luten arches as main spans, plus a pair of shorter arch spans as approaches. Upon personal observations, the bridge was built using two different types of rock: sandstone and quartzite, the first of which appears harder on the surface. The spans are skewed at 30°, which is unusual for arch bridges, yet its purpose still remains the same: to provide the river with free-flowing passage without damaging the structure. While there is no concrete information on the structure’s dimensions, upon personal visit, it appeared to be 65-70 meters long and 12-14 meters wide.   According to information by the historian, as well as reports by the Chemnitz Free Press, the Bridge was made redundant by a Communist-era through truss bridge, built using a Warren design in the 1980s, and served the line going through the paper factory until it was closed down in the mid-1990s. Abandoned since then and fenced off to prevent trespassers from crossing it, the community would like to see the Stone Arch Bridge rehabilitated and reused with the truss bridge being removed because it’s an eyesore.   Dr. Titzmann has been a vocal supporter for saving the Stone Arch Bridge, the last of the original crossings  along the Zwickau-Aue branch of the north-south line and integrating it into the Mulde Bike Trail, which currently shares the road to Hartenstein from the train Station in Bad Schlema.  Like the overwhelming support by the now extant paper factory during ist existence a century ago, support is enormous among the community for reusing the Stone Arch Bridge, which has been abandoned for almost four decades. Already the company owning the eastern bank of the river where the Bridge is located, Wismut Mining Works, has worked on clearing space for the bike trail, which has cost them over 300,000 Euros to date. The State of Saxony has already contributed 145,000 Euros for the rehabilitation of the structure.

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A surveyor at the Stone Arch Bridge in 2009. Photo taken by Marcel Weidlich (Chemnitz Free Press)

The plan, according to Dr. Titzmann is simple: as seen in the map, the bike trail is to follow the original railroad line, but running underneath the tunnel at the Bad Schlema train station, utilizing the Stone Arch Bridge, and going past the Wismut Mining Works, using the Poppenwald Road that goes there, as it was originally part of the line, before joining the current bike trail in use at Hartenstein.

The problem, according to Dr. Titzmann, is more complicated than expected:  “The center pier of the bridge has been undermined over the years, thanks to flooding and erosion,” Titzmann stated during the interview. “Therefore, as a person can see, the roadway at the center of the bridge is sinking.”  Aware of the complications, the community is working together with the state in securing additional funding to rebuild the bridge, keeping it in its original form to avoid being scratched from the Denkmalschutz book. This is the German equivalent to the National Register of Historic Places in the United States, except the bridge is listed on the state level because of its design and connection with the history of the paper and mining industries in the Erzgebirge.  The state level is one of three that are used to list historic places in the Denkmalschutz Book, along with local and national levels. Had the Stone Arch Bridge been listed in American standards, it would have fallen under the criterien of A (Events) and C (Design and Construction). Yet while funding for rehabilitating bridges in the States has become scarce, in Germany, money is kept available by the federal and state governments to encourage ambitious projects like this one, even if the project is complicated because of the aforementioned reasons.

The reconstruction project falls on the state level and it is a matter of time before the state of Saxony provides some additional funding in order for the project to move forward. The cost for rebuilding the bridge alone will take between 120,000 and 150,000 Euros, which consists of stripping the bridge down, while retaining the original stonework, rebuild the center pier, and then rebuild the structure, piece by piece before adding the decking and railing. The reconstruction of bridges in this style is very common in Germany, with the Camsdorf Bridge in Jena (Thuringia) being the closest example to the Stone Arch Bridge in Bad Schlema. That bridge, built in 1913 and rebuilt in 1946, was reconstructed and widened to accommodate more trams and cyclists. Completed in 2005, the project had taken two years.

Once the Stone Arch Bridge is completed, the rest of the bike trail can be built, thus reactivating a part of history that had not existed for over a century. Already a section of the bike trail north of the train station had been built on the west end of the river approaching the bridge but if funding and support arrive in a timely manner, the project could be finished in two years or less. This includes the removal of the truss bridge.

In the meantime, as funding and technical know-how is being pursued to realize this project, cyclists are still fighting with traffic along the road between Bad Schlema and Hartenstein, one of a few stretches of the 240-km long Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail. And even though a stretch of rail line between Aue and Wolfsgrün has been part of the Mulde system for seven-plus years, when the renovation of the bridge and realignment of the bike trail are both completed, an additional 10 km of rails to trails will be added, which will mean less stress while on the road, but at the same time, more opportunity to enjoy the Zwickauer Mulde, the natural landscape and a little history about the line passing through the region, which had once connected Leipzig with the Czech Republic and provided goods and services.

And when the bridge is finished, one will only see the arch bridge that was once abandoned but is now a historic site- seen by the train leaving Bad Schlema for Zwickau instead of the Communist eyesore, which many will not shed a tear once it’s gone.

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